Do you ever have those days that it feels like nothing is going right? The house is a mess, your running on no sleep, behind on EVERYTHING, kids have had way too much screen time and you keep getting snippy with your partner. You keep saying to yourself “I know what I have to do, why can’t I do it?” So you start and as you put the first cup in the dishwasher, your eldest asks for yogurt, just as you are handing them a spoon, your youngest asks to nurse. So you sit down to nurse. Trying to meet everyone’s needs at once, you decide to put on just one more episode of Max & Ruby, before you will definitely turn the tv off. As your nursing the baby, your partner comes in and announces “I’m making breakfast!” You think ‘don’t say anything negative that is a kind gesture and breakfast would be nice’ BUT we all know what the kitchen will look like at that.
So you decide to be flexible and try tackling the laundry upstairs instead, while your partner makes breakfast, but you are followed by two little ones, who are not being entertained by your partner anymore. You go into the eldest’ room and call for him to come help you gather up the laundry. The youngest comes and starts dragging the laundry down the hall with you. For a moment you think “wow, I’m doing something right.” Then as you round the bend, you see your eldest jumping on top of the pile of clean laundry, throwing it all over the room (essentially mixing up the dirty and clean). So now what? You realize you are at your breaking point. Yelling feels like the only option left because you feel unheard, and unappreciated, tired, overwhelmed, frustrated and annoyed.
If you are lucky, you may have a moment of clarity; ‘this is typical behaviour. He is exploring movement and the physics of falling objects. He is developing his gross motor skills.’ But even if you are reassured by the voice of child development knowledge, that does not change the mixed up laundry and all the other things on your growing list. So, I think you have a choice here. You get to decide what YOU need most in this moment because, let’s face it, everyone else seems to be doing just fine. You are the one near your breaking point, so your needs have to be met, your needs now take priority, barring an emergency, obviously. There are three needs that I can think of, that may come up in this scenario; peace, clarity or connection.
Do you need some time alone? Would you like to go for a walk? Do a half hour of yoga? Drive to get a coffee? This is when you need to let the people around you know what you need. The partner you have been snippy with is likely your first option, but if you do have family or friends close by that can help, you could try asking them to come over for an hour too. For your partner, you can say “I know I’ve been short with you all day. I’m sorry, I just really need some time alone. I am feeling overwhelmed.”
Most partners, when approached in this manner, are happy to help. That’s likely what the breakfast was, an attempt at helping, but we often do not make our needs known to people, instead we tend to take them on this guessing game of passive aggressive innuendos and confusing facial expressions, that we then expect them to decipher:
I know she is upset, but is she mad at me? Is she annoyed with the kids? Is she tired (of course she’s tired)? Maybe she’s hungry?
I know being honest about our feelings and needs is not the cool thing to do, but let’s make it cool. I am quite positive relationships around the globe, would improve drastically, if we could all just be honest and clear with each other about our needs. The first step is identifying your needs, so you can communicate it effectively. A need for peace is something we can all empathize with, so expressing that need, instead of attacking people for getting in the way of your journey to peace, is often more effective at achieving the ultimate goal of peace.
Do you need clarity? As in, do you need this mess cleared up? Well then go ahead and make that a priority. Ask your partner to keep the children occupied for a bit while you clean up the laundry mess (you may need to wait until after breakfast, but it’s also important to try and be flexible). Or call Grandad and ask if he is up for visitors. You will feel better once you get some cleaning done.
I would love to advise you to ask for help and get your family to clean the house with you. If that’s what you want to do, by all means go ahead, but I feel like that is an idealistic, Hollywood movie, kind of parenting tip. We all saw what happened in the previous scene when everyone was “helping.” That doesn’t mean don’t accept help and don’t ever expect others to clean. What I am saying is, when you have very little left in your tank and cannot handle one more setback, go ahead and don’t try and have a teachable moment or the perfect, sitcom worthy, family cleanup.
In my case, trying to get everyone to pitch in, would likely lead to me feeling like more of a failure. It would probably lead to some unwanted, yet good intentioned, nagging about the way and speed with which they were “helping.” It would take way longer and A LOT more patience which I clearly stated I was running thin on. No, the best choice for ME right now (not television mom me, real me) is to ask my partner to take our children somewhere, lock the baby stair gate, put on a movie that no one else would want to watch, and begin tackling the laundry.
Do you feel a need for connection? Are you dragging yourself through all these tasks but really you would rather join your son in tossing the clothes around and then take a family nap on top of the mess? Well, go ahead! These are the moments that people say “forget about the mess, make memories instead.” Love and connection is our greatest need. Your children will benefit more from a lazy day with mom, then they will from folded laundry in their drawers. What do you remember from your childhood? What days were most special? Focus on why they were so special. It’s likely because you felt connected to the people and the world around you. Our connections to others build us up, they fill us in ways that no pedicure could ever compare to. If your need is to connect, I think it is important to honour that need. Especially since it models the importance of self-compassion and connection for our children; something so crucial to their holistic development and happiness.
Only you know what your needs are. Through the conditioning of not telling people how we feel, we also don’t tell people what we need. We will drop emotional and behavioural hints, expecting those around us to detect and decipher the most minute facial expression or sigh. It is so much easier for everyone if we are open and honest about our feelings and our needs. Not only does it help us, but it models that type of openness for our children as well, which is priceless.
If you want to join me, and our community of responsive parents, on this wonderfully complex journey of parenting, please join my parenting support group on Facebook https://m.facebook.com/groups/806727139517086